May 11, 2003 11:00 pm

The City Council appropriately drew the line in the sand last week when it ordered a major La Grande motel to not

delay making payments for what it owes in back transient room taxes.

The council ordered the 150-room Howard Johnson Motor Inn to begin making payments immediately after the motel was delinquent in paying $54,000 in taxes since August. Actually the amount owed will be closer to $70,000 as interest is added and payments are brought up to date.

Northwest Lodging International, which operates La Grande's Howard Johnson, has made an initial $13,486 payment to avoid having the water shut off to the lodge on Island Avenue.

Northwest Lodging representative Chris Secreto wanted the remaining payments to begin June 30, when the summer tourist season is heating up, but the council properly ordered those payments of about $18,000 each for three months to start June 1.

Other La Grande motels have fallen behind in their payments, but not to the extent of Howard Johnson. None of the motel operators should view the transient room tax as money that can be used, as Councilor John Bozarth pointed out, to help a business's cash flow during lean times. Short-term bank loans are available to help with cash flow.

All motel operators must view the room tax as not their own, but as something that must be passed on to local government in an appropriate, timely fashion.

What's in a name?

From the things are tough all over file:

The state of Massachusetts is facing a $3 billion deficit, so lawmakers are considering selling corporate sponsors the naming rights to parks and forests, including the Walden Woods immortalized by Henry David Thoreau.

What a novel idea in these days of declining revenue. Imagine what selling naming rights could produce in the state of Oregon — a place where corporate sponsorships have been slow to catch on (only Reser Stadium and PGE Park come to mind). Although most of the forests in the state are federal, there are still some state and regional assets the Legislature could sell the naming rights to.


• The Tillamook Cheese State Forest.

• The Oregon Coast, brought to you by Nike.

• Intel's Historic Scenic Columbia River Highway.

Makes one wonder what a place like Wallowa Lake might be worth.